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Daniel Burnham

Robb Wolf On Low Carb Diet

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Daniel Burnham

I finally got around to reading this article tonight and think that many on this forum will find it informative. I have noticed there has been a lot of confusion on insulin, fasting, and ketogenic diets. Robb mentions all of these things in this blog post. I will not try to outline the ideas because I think it would be good to read them for yourself.

Here is the link to part 3 of the series.

http://robbwolf.com/2013/01/09/thoughts-carb-paleo-episode-3-hope/

I found this one to be the most informative but it would be good to read all of them if you are interested in this type of thing. He even makes mention of gymnastic type training. I look forward to the discussion this might spark!

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Joshua Naterman

He also still makes mistakes regarding insulin sensitivity, and has it completely uncoupled from exercise.

 

His recommendation of low carb dieting for those who are insulin resistant reflects a complete lack of understanding regarding actual mechanisms of glucose metabolism shifts, and in my opinion is massively unprofessional given the fact that he has established himself as a huge name in health-based nutrition (despite not having nutrition credentials that I can find, which to be fair I do not have either, though I do have exercise science credentials, and that requires a reasonable bit of formal education in nutritional knowledge). This stuff is not a secret, he's supposed to have been a freaking review editor for a nutrition journal, why doesn't he know it?

 

Edit: I realize he talks about nutrition, but everyone has to realize, by now, that you can't talk about something with multiple factors (like insulin resistance) from a pure nutrition perspective. Our activity levels directly influence macronutrient energy sourcing. That is something you learn in the very first exercise physiology class you'll ever take, and ALSO something you learn in beginning nutrition classes. For these reasons, I believe that his approach to this on his blog is inexcusably negligent.

 

He may do an excellent job in person with clients, I do not know, and I have not read everything he has ever written. I have, however, read through this series, and I am appalled at the incomplete nature of recalcitrance as well as the contradictions and the apparent lack of understanding [ of the basics of activity-modulated nutrition] this series shows.

 

I like the fact that he's slowly getting things less wrong, and I like his general demeanor when responding to comments, but I just think that this series underscores his lack of understanding in this area.

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thenail01

Sizz - on a somewhat unrelated tangent - what's your take on Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food)?

 

He doesn't really cover nutrition in respect to performance enhancement, but kind of circumvents the whole topic by noting that as "nutritional science" had advanced we've become more and more unhealthy, and deconstructing foods into nutritional science was the first step in the wrong direction.

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Philip Chubb

I am sure with clients and as you may see in his other post, that nutrition isn't the only thing he focuses on. Though that seems to be the big point of these articles. The page I did read posted some fair points though of low carb not being the holy grail everyone sees it as but the situations were it could be useful. It has been shown in a lot of different cases that low carb helps people with insulin resistance. What makes you disagree so strongly with that?

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Joshua Naterman

Sizz - on a somewhat unrelated tangent - what's your take on Michael Pollan (Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food)?

 

He doesn't really cover nutrition in respect to performance enhancement, but kind of circumvents the whole topic by noting that as "nutritional science" had advanced we've become more and more unhealthy, and deconstructing foods into nutritional science was the first step in the wrong direction.

Well, while I have not read that (yet, but I will: it sounds interesting!), I will say this:

 

The advances in nutritional science have not been reflected in the common person's diet.

 

In fact, they have been twisted for marketing purposes, and that has led to everything from the extremely retarded switch to hydrogenated vegetable oils back in the '50's to the zero carb diets we see today.

 

 

 

I definitely agree with the idea that the 'deconstruction of foods into nutritional science' has not been a boon for the common person, but high-level athletes have reaped the benefits.

 

What cracks me up the most, in a sad way, is that the more we deconstruct things, the more we realize three things:

 

1) You need to eat what you burn

2) You need to eat a lot of plant matter

3) You need to stay away from processed fats and carbohydrates

 

This is, basically, how our great-grandparents ate. It's ridiculously simple to take advantage of the most advanced food science, but people are being crucified on the cross of Twisted Science by irreputable nutritional heathens who want nothing more than to drain the gold from the veins of your wallet.

 

If I can add a fourth thing, it is:

4) Move around. A lot. Be active.

 

Life used to force this, and now everything is motionless. Science has been misused in this area as well, but this time it's the common person's inherent laziness (a trait of humans in general, to various extents, and not a crack at any person or persons) that is at fault. Escalators were meant to be moving staircases that you walked up in half the time, not a passive uphill conveyor belt for people. Same goes for the moving walkways in the airport. If you look at both, you see people standing still the majority of the time. This sight makes me facepalm every single day.

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Joshua Naterman

I am sure with clients and as you may see in his other post, that nutrition isn't the only thing he focuses on. Though that seems to be the big point of these articles. The page I did read posted some fair points though of low carb not being the holy grail everyone sees it as but the situations were it could be useful. It has been shown in a lot of different cases that low carb helps people with insulin resistance. What makes you disagree so strongly with that?

Mostly the fact that low carb has a clinical definition, and that even a sedentary person needs to be moderate carb. Robb is wrong about what he thinks regarding the situations that low carb could be useful, aside from a very very small subset of people who have severe "autoimmune" or genetic disorders. That's such a specialized population that we can safely say it has no bearing on healthy people, just like the protein guidelines for people with phenylketonuria have no bearing on what a healthy person without that disorder should consume.

 

I am in full agreement that most people are eating foods that flood their blood (I like that in-line rhyme) with too much energy, and particularly too much carbohydrate, for their real-time energy expenditure. That leads to a cascade of hormonal and compositional changes that help re-inforce the slide down the slippery slope of dietary disease.

 

There is a big difference between fixing how someone feels the wrong way and the right way. Caffeine is a very simple example, because we are all familiar with how it can make you forget that you've missed a few hours of sleep, and keeps you feeling alert, but not jittery, when used correctly (dosage is different for everyone). It makes you feel better, but it doesn't fix the underlying problems that come from a lack of sleep. Only adjusting one's sleep habits and sleeping environment can fix those.

 

In the same way, moving into carbohydrate insufficiency DOES trigger a series of hormonal changes that alter the way you feel, but do not alter insulin sensitivity in a positive way. Insulin resistance is the primary risk factor for a huge number of things, since it affects how much insulin you have to make to process a given glycemic load. More resistance = more insulin = more of that carbohydrate being stored as yellow fat = more LDL and VLDL and more inflammation = more cortisol = more sugar being released into the blood by the liver = more GNG = more load on the liver and kidneys, and there are a number of branches into many more nasty conditions at various points in that very, very incomplete chain of events.

 

Exercise alone is a huge mitigating factor for this, because nutrition alone is incapable of restoring full insulin sensitivity. Why? Because nutrition does not cause more GLUT-4 receptors to be placed on cell membranes, and nutrition does not up-regulate sodium-dependent glucose receptors either. Only resistance exercise does these things (to the greatest extent), which is why I get so pissed off that Robb Wolf doesn't make that a central part of every post.

 

The ideal way to deal with someone who is insulin resistant is 3+ days per week of full body resistance training. You need cardio in there for heart health, but you can do that with interval work or steady state, whatever your clients prefer. If it's for an athlete, you'll need to think about what heart adaptations will help them the most in their sport. Alongside this physical training, you want to teach them how to match their dietary carbs to their real-time needs. You do this, and you will see nearly magical improvements.

 

You have to realize that improvements in insulin sensitivity happen at the cellular level, and the majority of the positive cellular changes happen solely because of resistance exercise. You can be low-carb and still see improvements, but if the person ups their carbs to what they truly need they will see even MORE improvements.

 

Think about this: I'm pretty sure you are not going to argue with the following statements (aside from #1, if you are completely against any alcohol consumption but the science is still solid):

 

1) If we drink a small amount of alcohol each day, our bodies actually become better at clearing toxins in general (alcohol groups in particular). We get upregulation of alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme without any cross-linking of liver proteins or alternate metabolism into nasty forms of cholesterol. Hence the statements that a single drink per day, according to the official size of "one drink" based on alcohol content, can actually IMPROVE your health.

 

2) If we eat closer to the maximum amount of protein our bodies can safely handle, our livers actually appear to function BETTER. Same basic mechanism, really. Enzymes get up-regulated while avoiding excess nitrogenous waste, and health appears to improve.

 

3) If we don't do too much exercise for our bodies, but stay within safe limits (meaning do enough to get stronger, but not enough to get injured), we actually become a lot healthier.

 

Why, then, do so many people seem to have trouble thinking of this one:

 

If you eat the RIGHT amount of carbs, based on what we need at the time, your body actually gets BETTER at using insulin and will require less of it to handle the same carb load over time, particularly with a lifestyle that includes resistance exercise.

 

This is what we see in the research!

 

It is literally common sense: Eat what you need.

 

 

 

Put differently, the most stable process is the one that is the natural state. Our bodies will dive out of any level of ketosis with very little extra carbohydrate. By contrast, it takes a long time to wade into ketosis.  The same goes for elevated GNG. We have a sugar battery, our liver, that preferentially fills itself up with sugar specifically for the purpose of preventing these changes from occuring between feedings for several hours, and it takes 16-48 hours for these two alternate metabolisms to get into full gear. It takes almost no time at all to dive out of them.

 

So ask yourself a simple question: Are these unstable processes really where your body belongs, or is it the stable process of being fed enough carbs to meet your metabolic needs in a way that allows fats and proteins to be utilized for what they are intended (energy, cell production, hormones for the fats; structural raw materials for the proteins)?

 

Why on earth is everyone hell-bent on trying to mis-construe these stop-gap measures (ketosis and elevated GNG) as the ideal state when our bodies abandon them so readily at the first sign of carbs? They are there to make sure we don't fall apart when we can't get carbs, not to try and replace the carbs that we need.

 

This post was not to say that you should be living exclusively on carbs. This was simply to point out, in the most obvious and easily verifiable way I know how to present, that what low carb people are doing is usually (nearly always) not in their body's best interest.

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Philip Chubb

Interesting. I do agree that the body is highly adaptable as long as you don't push it too far. That is a good point. It works with nearly everything else. Now I have to go find an expensive glucose tester and see for myself how all this really works! Good points, Joshua.

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Daniel Burnham

Ha I have been thinking about getting a glucose meter. I just don't want sore fingers...

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Larry Roseman

Josh, you seem a little resistant to his ideas, :)

 

I don't see him saying that carb ingestion automatically causes (long-term) insulin resistance or that people who are insulin sensitive (by whatever means) shouldn't have carbs.

 

It seems that he has highlighted a number of conditions when going into ketosis for longer periods can be beneficial, but is not recommending it as a rule. If one is overweight or trying to lean out, I think he believes and I generally agree that lower carb diets can be valuable to improve saiety and  reduce cravings. At times this can take precedence over athletic performance. Though he suggests that for power sports lower carb intakes will be virtually impossible. And likewise, lower carb may not be needed to reduce cravings for insulin sensitive people lowering calories. I know you believe lower carb is not ideal for strength training as well and that is a fair point.

 

I actually found his non-dogmatic approach refreshing. He is not even encouraging lower-carb diets or saying that ketosis is a natural state at all: he stated that flexibility is what is natural. Although my understanding from physiology is that GNG and ketosis occur in the body frequently. Proteins themselves are either glucogenic or ketogenic (or both) and can be converted into either ketone boides or glucose as necessary. Something like half the amino acids we eat are shuttled to the liver through portal vein for this purpose whether we like it or not. So neither process is really un-natural or intrinsically unhealthy to me....

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Philip Chubb

I have to say, the more I try higher carbs, the more sick and soft I feel. I don't believe ketosis is where I would stay, but it feels a lot better than the experiments I have been doing.

 

I don't think strength training is an issue so much as medium distance anaerbic activities. When I was doing straight keto, sprints were still fine as long as it was around 100 meters or the distance to catch a bus. But doing it for an actual workout was not working as well. Depending on how long your strength sets are, and I believe most people here use longer ones than I do, it might cause an issue but I never had one.

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